Today I’m failing. We head off pretty late and reach the next village after four kilometres. I have to admit to myself, I’m already done. My feet are hurting. But even worse is the inner numbness. I don’t want to walk. My feet keep moving none the less. After a while the pain is everywhere so I can’t even feel it anymore because I can’t locate it. To the next village it’s about 13k and since the hiking path is in the middle of nowhere, I know I have to get there. I’m slow. So very slow. My brain is tired and my spirit is low. But somehow I do get there. The boys are waiting in a cafe. I sit down for some coffee and pastry. Then coke. When the others walk on, I follow the example of three other pilgrims I saw before on the bus. The last six of today’s 24 kilometres, I sit with my backpack in my arms looking out of the window. A part of me feels bad because I think I should be walking every single step. But the other part is at peace. I know it was a good choice.
San Quirico is beautiful. But really all I do is have shower, sleep, buy some food and rest some more. I’m tired. My whole body is tired. It’s time to arrive. I’m at the end of my journey. Only a few days left…
Yesterday the boys and I started early to go to Monteriggioni which is an old village up a hill and then walk for ages, coming by a pretty cattle and stopping at a rest place for pilgrims to get to Siena, a very beautiful city along the way. The walk was long but doable. As I said, I’m kind of getting bored with the walking. I have to admit though, that the landscape is beautiful!
We manage to do 14k before the first break which then last for over an hour. It’s ten o’clock by then. When we continue walking, the sun has come out and it’s boiling hot. The landscape is beautiful, no doubt, but I do reach my pain limit and find myself wanting to simply lie down in the shade and never get back up again. I keep walking however. Why? I guess it’s just common sense, knowing that you have to reach that place where you can shower, eat and sleep. Eventually we separate because everyone has their own speed. And after only three minutes of a stop I set out to do the last rice kilometres of today. When the sign appears saying that there are only two left it saves my life. I can’t begin to explain how tough tidal was for me. Maybe it’s just a mental thing, but u really didn’t want to move anymore. I did, none the less, and I ended up in this really beautiful place, where they provide you with everything you need, including food. That’s the thing. I suffer. And I hate it. And then I get to a place unknown that really blows my head of, and everything is forgotten. I’m happy again. And I know, somehow, I’ll survive another long day like this tomorrow.
Leaving San Gimignano on my own in the morning I’m enjoying the peace and quiet and my own speed.
I decided to do the longer, but more beautiful walk. It meant five kilometres extra, but at least it didn’t include ten kilometres of walking along the street. And although it gets exhausting to go up and down a lot, I’m happy for quite a while. After about six kilometres I see a sign which tells me that there will be a bar in 40 minutes which works out perfectly for my ten o’clock break.
I keep walking and three times I come across cages filled with dogs barking intensely for help. Super Kate frees them all, but normal Kate keeps on walking, heartbroken. Eventually I cross a road and enter a forest were I am being massively attacked by about a thousand horse flies. It gets so annoying I even start to run for a bit, which I give up again quite quickly since it’s pretty exhausting. I then cross another street and walk up to a church which tell me both, the sign and my guide book. After climbing through some bushes, I figure this can’t be the way and a nice older man tells me I have to return to the street and take another road. The bar doesn’t show either. I’m getting pretty annoyed and frustrated with walking. I have to admit that after six weeks on the road, I’m really looking forward to getting to Rome and then going back home to my cosy nest. I haven’t been there in over five months due to other obligations. It’s getting time.
Well, finally I see a bar (a different one) which is a great relief. I had been walking 14km straight by that time. Even more happy am I about seeing the boys there. We take a longer break and I’m in a better mood again. My day is saved when we reach a Roman bath which I use for a little swim. The water is pretty cold but so very refreshing.
We reach Badia Isola where we stay in a very nice and new hostel next to the church. It’s lead by two older men who also make dinner and breakfast for us. The ice cold beer in the bar after a long day is amazing. So is dinner. We are now in a region where more and more pilgrims gather so it’s quite a fest with eight of them. We have too much wine and I go to bed happily yet tired of walking none the less…
This morning I leave the hostel with Jesper and Markus around 7.30. The dinner last night was amazing and afterwards we got a private tour of the church the hostel is attached to. Amazing. I’ve never been in a church alone at night before…
The breakfast is the usual Italian one so we stop up in Gambassi Terme for a proper coffee and some more food. Today’s trip isn’t long, but we’re taking ages. The landscape is beautiful and we pass quite a few wineries. One of them we enter: La Torre Antica. It’s all organic wines and Markus and I try a very good dessert wine from the region. It’s called Santo Colombano.
On it goes. Quite a bit uphill. I’m trying to keep up with the boys and have to admit that I’m defeated after a while. I let them run on and slow down to my usual uphill speed, which is that of a snail. We finally get to take a break later on and then see a pilgrimage church called Santuario Madre della divina Provvidenza. Afterwards we climb even higher to see an old farmyard called Collemuccioli, which includes a church. The people from all different religions living there are in a silence phase so sadly we cannot have a look around. It’s very impressive still.
A little further away we can ready see San Gimignano which we reach via a road.
This morning, Markus and I start our walk uphill to San Miniato Alto. After a nice breakfast with a great view, we collect a stamp in the church and off we are to enjoy the most beautiful views of Tuscany.
After many kilometres without a single bar (i.e. Coffee) we reach today’s destination. A pretty new hostel for pilgrims in the church building of Santa Maria a Chianni. It’s amazing and located just before Gambassi Terme, which would have been today’s goal if their hostel had a shower…
My path leads me out of Altopascio over a roman road, through desert land, over an old bridge holding a hostel for pilgrims, via an ice cream break and a beautiful church, led by an old pilgrim to San Miniato Basso.
It’s rains during the walk, but not too much. It’s nice and cool and it feels like I get to San Miniato Basso in no time.
Here I run into Markus from Austria and rejoin with Jesper from Switzerland. We are later joined by Mauro from Italy and Mery, my Spanish companion. Five pilgrims in one place! Who would have thought this could happen on the Via Francigena?
I don’t get up at six as I intended to, but around seven. I need sleep. I’ve been feeling a little under the weather since that supermarket lunch in Florence. Mery and I have breakfast at the hostel and finally leave after eight o’clock. We take quite a few breaks since we’re not used to the weight of the backpack anymore. The good thing about being a grown up is that you can have ice cream as often as you want by the way. Very handy in Italy.
The walk isn’t too long or too hot and we reach Altopascio well in time to rest a little. Throughout the whole walk, pain excluded, I feel absolutely happy. Like a room without a roof…. I’m not sure how to describe this absolutely contentment inside yourself without a single doubt. Joyous!
After buying what’s necessary, like antinflamatories, blister plasters, foot cream, water and some food including fresh fruit, I take a little rest. I’m so tired. My shoulder still hurts a lot, my trapezius is inflamed, my feet hurt again and my eye is burning and watering non stop today. Might be an allergy. I’m not sure. But all of this together with the bad food yesterday make me simply want to sleep.
We then find an Asian restaurant and feast on sushi. Finally no pizza or pasta. It’s great. But after a month I really needed something different. This is tonight’s reward for staying strong. The view from my window.
I’m not quite sure which word to use to describe my visit to Florence. Great just doesn’t seem to cover it. I’ll go for marvellous I think.
Starting with the cathedral I was already stunned. The building is amazing! And since we asked for a stamp for our credential, we even got access to the prayer section instead of the tourist part. And we got a little peek behind the scenes in the priests room.
Next on the list was the church of Dante Allighiri, where his beloved Beatrice takes letters from people who have lost a loved one in a basket. Like he was never able to be with her but was inspired by her to write the divine comedy and many other works.
Off to the Basilica di Santa Croce. The church was built in 1294 and us the biggest church by the order of San Francis in the world. This is the place where some of the most famous Italians are buried. Like Michelangelo with 30 members of his family. Btw, the tomb is next to the statue. Not everybody knows…
We buy some lunch in a supermarket because Florence is even more expensive. The idea is to eat it in the Gardino Bardini which is supposed to be really nice. So we cross the river Arno at ponte alle Grazie to get there. However, it’s closed the first and last Monday of the month. Bad luck I guess. Instead we head up through the Porta San Miniato to the rose gardens. It’s beautiful. Wind is coming up.
On the way back we cross the river at the famous Ponte Vecchio. It’s full of jewellers. Story says it used to be meat and fish sold there. But the people didn’t like it and wanted something beautiful instead so they started setting up stores with shiny bling stuff.
The gallery is closed on Mondays and I don’t get to see David. I personally don’t understand how in a touristy city like Florence they can close the most famous museum, but it gives me a reason to come back. This time, we have way too expensive coffee and return to Lucca.
After these two days off, I can’t imagine being on the road walking again the next day…
This morning we took the train to Pisa. Those things are pretty fast, I must say. Landscape is simply passing by. But anyway…
In Pisa, the tower, the cemetery, the cathedral and so on are literally crammed in one place overcrowded with tourists. I’m sure if you had loads of time, you could also go explore the city itself. For today, we stayed with all the other tourists. It’s way too expensive, but we climbed the tower for 18€ to get a spectacular view. It’s 257 stairs up there. I counted differently, but I’m sure they know better…
We had started our visit with the cemetery before that. But in tourist land things are stressful so I had to rush to the appointed tower tour. I convinced the lady at the cemetery to let me back in afterwards. She agreed. Thank you. It had totally been destroyed in world war 2 and been rebuilt afterwards. All by hand. Incredible. I actually watched them do it in a film…
Next on the list is the baptism building. Yes, a whole building just for baptisms. It holds an altar and one of those old basins in which the children used to be baptised. Not just a splash of water on the head, but with a full bath.
For once I managed to get up quite early and leave before seven. The truth is, that after a month, I usually wake up at six anyway. So why not make something of it by arriving at places early, I thought.
So I stopped for a coffee and on I went. The first time the signs varied from the description in my book, I followed the signs. Only to find they were leading my in a strange zigzag way to avoid the road. All extra steps my friends. No thank you. So I went back on the road and ignored all signs. Finally I had to climb up a steep hill covered in horse flies. Again. These little monsters are everywhere! The views are great however. And just so that you know they still exist, here is a picture of a madonna shrine…
After checking into the hostel, I have some lunch and climb a really important tower called Torre Guinigi to have an amazing view of the city. After doing the first steps, I realize I have already walked 25km in the morning. The view is amazing though.
I have a coffee and meet an Italian guy who used to work in Timmendorf, next to where I live… He says we should have dinner together. At 21.30. Italian time. Too late for me. And I wanted to be on my own anyway. I keep wandering to look at everything important and then go to a Puccini concert in a church in the evening. Very happy!